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BY CATHY BOLLING
Island Post Staff Writer
The new Fisherman’s Memorial at Craig’s Cannery Point is the result of years of collaboration between City of Craig staff, Craig City Council members and a few local volunteers, plus a very generous donation from hotel heir Barron Hilton.
Hilton was a regular visitor to Craig in the past aboard the 120-foot yacht Silverado, which has been frequenting the Craig Harbor for many summers. Michael Kampnich was Craig Harbormaster from 1991 to 2009, and came to know the vessel’s skipper, Steve Riehemann.
Kampnich was always impressed with how the Silverado’s crew supported Craig’s business community by purchasing fuel, rigging and other supplies while staying here.
In 2005, the City of Craig purchased a 10-acre property on the northwest tip of Craig, including Cannery Point, from Wards Cove Packing Company. Kampnich, while harbormaster, heard several comments around the community in favor of developing a community park at Cannery Point. He brought these interests to City Administrator Jon Bolling and the Craig City Council, which approved the Cannery Point Park concept in 2007.
Kampnich also discussed the park concept with Riehemann, who in turn spoke to Hilton, who took an interest in the project. Hilton in 2008 contributed $25,000 toward the project, which the city placed in a special account.
Kampnich remained harbormaster another year, then resigned in order to fish. Retired school teacher Cheryl Fecko helped keep the project rolling.
“Initially my efforts were dedicated to acknowledging the maritime history of the area and in establishing a park at Cannery Point,” she said. It was a project worthy of more of her time and energy.
She, Kampnich and Bolling had many discussions and toured the site during the planning process.
“Jon was terrific to work with,” Kampnich said.
Riehemann also worked between the Hiltons and the city to support the project, he said.
The memorial stone is made from a 4,500-pound piece of Aphrodite marble that Stone Arts of Alaska co-owner Gary McWilliams had from Tuxecan Island, near Naukati.
“How fitting that the marble came from Tuxecan Island and its origins came from the sea,” Fecko said.
McWilliams barged the stone to his Washington home where he did the engraving. It was a difficult project because the stone was so big and an unwieldy shape. Despite the difficulty, he was glad to have been involved, he said.
The city has made many improvements to the once muddy, brushy point since 2009. Dirt was brought in, grass was planted, a trail was made connecting the point to Beach Road, and a seawall was built.
“The city has done an incredible job beautifying and maintaining the park, which really sets off the stone,” Fecko said.
The former cannery is a historical base for Craig, said Kampnich. The cannery web loft is used by commercial fishermen and others for storage and has, in recent years, doubled as a unique venue for weddings and community gatherings. Placing the memorial at the point “solidifies” it as a community gathering place, he said.
“To acknowledge the industry and fishing history at that park is the most appropriate thing I can think of.”
Kampnich is very pleased with the results. McWilliams did an “exquisite job” on the engraving and polishing and the sentiment is most poignant: “In memory of those lost at sea and all who have fished these waters.” A mariner’s compass and troller, with poles extended, are also engraved into the side facing the city.
Facing seaward, the inscription reads “The community thanks Mr. Barron Hilton for his contribution to this memorial.”
Fecko said there was a lot of thought that went into every aspect of the project, but the wording of the inscription was the biggest struggle.
“We wanted something that honored those lost at sea but also something that paid tribute to all of those who have fished local waters throughout history. We wanted something inclusive, yet simple and meaningful,” she said.
Kampnich, Fecko and her partner Doug Rhodes emailed back and forth with McWilliams until they got the inscription just right. A troller design was selected because they wanted an iconic boat image for the area, Fecko said.
Bolling is also pleased with the result.
“It’s a handsome stone,” he said.
The city’s goal is first to develop the harbor adjacent to the cannery property. Congress has authorized about $29 million toward that project.
Craig’s Facilities Manager Doug Ward and his crew placed the stone and landscaping in early August. Residents quickly took notice.
“The community has really applauded it. I hear people say they really appreciate it. It’s terrific,” Kampnich said.
Fecko said seeing the memorial completed and in place has been rewarding and humbling; the tribute to fishermen “heartwarming.”
“The stone is beautiful and sits in the perfect place. I really want to thank all involved in making it happen,” Fecko said.
The stone and landscaping were completed just after the Silverado pulled out of Craig for the summer. Kampnich is hoping it will return next year and that the community can formally acknowledge the role the Hilton family and Riehemann played in making the memorial a reality.